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thomas moureau

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Cascade - The Last Flight Of Endeavour
by thomas moureau   

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Category: 

Action/Thriller

Publisher:  Independent ISBN-10:  1456405012 Type: 
Pages: 

294

Copyright:  March 3 2011 ISBN-13:  9781456405014
Fiction

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With the sound of bursting metal, the International Space Station becomes a tumbling, powerless hulk and a tomb for its crew. As NASA prepares the Space Shuttle Endeavour in a desperate attempt to rescue the surviving astronauts, the question remains; was the cataclysm the result of a random collision with a piece of space junk, or something deliberate? With the crime scene orbiting the planet some five hundred kilometers up, the truth may be found in a mathematical model and the terrorist who possesses it—a game of calculations that could cripple western civilization and topple America.
As the countdown continues, Jake McSorley, former veteran and defense marketeer now living off the spoils of his family's aerospace company, becomes convinced that the million-pound Space Station has been the victim of sabotage. In six days the Station will cross paths with a dead rocket body, risking a collision that could create a massive cloud of speeding debris sweeping through space, grinding up the satellite systems the modern world has come to depend upon and eviscerating America’s ability to defend itself. Science fiction or science fact—the reality lies in a Cold War test of a space warfare system hidden in a software game.
Jake, whose father's company has been helping NASA put astronauts into space for more than forty years, is no scientist, but thanks to a run-in with an IED in Afghanistan he has a sixth sense when it comes to knowing when things aren’t what they appear. And with the woman he loves about to ride Endeavour on its rescue mission to the Station, the countdown is ticking to discover the truth. But, learning what was done is far less dangerous than knowing who did it, and as Jake pursues the mystery the conspirators begin methodically and gruesomely cleaning up after themselves. Pursued by killers, he crosses the law and soon the FBI is after him, too, as he races to learn the secret of the Cascade--a secret that hides a contract with terrorists and a horrifying deception to start a war without rules, without restraints and without remorse. For Jake to stop them he must sacrifice everything that’s left of his life, including the crew of Endeavour and the woman he has sacrificed everything for.
The story is a fast-paced, hi-tech, action-adventure thriller with geopolitical intrigue in the spirit of Clancy, Cussler, Flynn, and Follett, taking the reader on a chase from space coast to space coast, with stops in the mountains of Pakistan and the border region with Afghanistan, and finally into orbit.

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Cascade - The Last Flight of Endeavour

With the sound of bursting metal, the International Space Station becomes a tumbling, powerless hulk and a tomb for its crew.  As NASA prepares the Space Shuttle Endeavour in a desperate attempt to rescue the surviving astronauts, the question remains; was the cataclysm the result of a random collision with a piece of space junk, or something deliberate?  With the crime scene orbiting the planet some five hundred kilometers up, the truth may be found in a mathematical model and the terrorist who possesses it—a game of calculations that could cripple western civilization and topple America. 

   As the countdown continues, Jake McSorley, former veteran and defense marketeer now living off the spoils of his family's aerospace company, becomes convinced that the million-pound Space Station has been the victim of sabotage.  In six days the Station will cross paths with a dead rocket body, risking a collision that could create a massive cloud of speeding debris sweeping through space, grinding up the satellite systems the modern world has come to depend upon and eviscerating America’s ability to defend itself.  Science fiction or science fact—the reality lies in a Cold War test of a space warfare system hidden in a software game.

   Jake, whose father's company has been helping NASA put astronauts into space for more than forty years, is no scientist, but thanks to a run-in with an IED in Afghanistan he has a sixth sense when it comes to knowing when things aren’t what they appear.  And with the woman he loves about to ride Endeavour on its rescue mission to the Station, the countdown is ticking to discover the truth. But, learning what was done is far less dangerous than knowing who did it, and as Jake pursues the mystery the conspirators begin methodically and gruesomely cleaning up after themselves.  Pursued by killers, he crosses the law and soon the FBI is after him, too, as he races to learn the secret of the Cascade--a secret that hides a contract with terrorists and a horrifying deception to start a war without rules, without restraints and without remorse.  For Jake to stop them he must sacrifice everything that’s left of his life, including the crew of Endeavour and the woman he has sacrificed everything for.

   The story is a fast-paced, hi-tech, action-adventure thriller with geopolitical intrigue in the spirit of Clancy, Cussler, Flynn, and Follett, taking the reader on a chase from space coast to space coast, with stops in the mountains of Pakistan and the border region with Afghanistan, and finally into orbit.


Excerpt

Chapter 1

Monday morning.
P-Jay stood on his head and watched the sunrise--the fourteenth so far today. Crisp, blindingly bright arcs that rose from the blackness to slowly reveal the greens, blues, browns and swirling white wisps below. He was in the cupola, an overturned salad bowl of mostly windows beneath the Space Station, giving him a view of both heaven and earth. Both were equally majestic, the earth, uniquely so.
He never failed to marvel at how clean the world looked from up here, just as it always caused him to wonder what the heck anybody down there had to fight about--an oasis of life in until proven otherwise, an inhospitable universe.
The science wasn’t as poetic, but even the numbers had drama. He was speeding in a circle at 17,500 miles-per-hour, in an orbit that was inclined a fraction of a degree past fifty-one-point-six, with the earth spinning on its axis some 230 miles below. The effect was that, his vessel retreated westward with each orbital pass in a pair of perfectly symmetric parabolas reaching just past the fifty-first latitude, one mirroring the other and connecting at the equator. The bottom line was that the view was never exactly the same no matter how many thousands of orbits he might see.
Setting his silver juice bag into the air in front of him, he gave it a spin with a single finger, letting it hang in the weightlessness, going nowhere. Then he typed some of that poetry he was feeling into his email, ending with… ‘Hug my cupcakes, send your mother home and buy some cheap champagne. Love P-Jay; Apt. B, International Space Station; zip code 0.’
He didn’t press ‘send.’ Jennie wouldn’t be awake and checking her computer for another twenty minutes. She seemed much closer when he got an, ‘I luv u’ a moment after his own. It was the next best thing to her touch, and moving at some 26,000 feet-per-second faster than she was, imagining Jennie’s touch was no easy trick. While he waited, he went back to watching the slowly passing scenery.
The Station's cupola was positioned below one of the main attachment nodes, this one known as Unity, at the virtual center of the Station. It was a soup-can shaped module that served as connecting points for a string of larger modules, all of them pressurized to be livable. Destiny, the laboratory module, was connected to Unity on this end and the second node at its other, which in turn was connected to the Japanese science module and a European habitation module, forming a ‘T.’ The top of the T ended at a nameless, cone-shaped docking port known as a mating adaptor. Behind him, running aft of Unity was the Russian string including the propulsion module called Zarya and more living quarters and life support in a module known as Zvezda. The total living space of all of the pressurized canisters was not much more than three school buses. Crossing atop the line of modules was the Station’s metal truss, a hundred-meter-long girder with matching sets of giant, blue and silver solar arrays on either end. There were smaller solar arrays and canisters of various sizes stuck here and there. All-in-all, the spaceship looked like a kind of robot dragonfly crafted by children from miscellaneous cans, bottles, tinfoil and sticks.
Thuuunnng!
The sound pounded through the structure like a cannon-shot before fading away--startling enough, but the silence that followed was mind-numbing. The Station was never silent, fans, motors, pumps, the constant whirring and humming of equipment that had been running since the thing had first been powered up all had suddenly wound down to nothing. And that silence was the worst thing possible.
All the proof P-Jay needed was contained in the view from the cupola where the sunlit horizon and dark orb of the planet were now arcing crazily across the windows in the sensation of a nosedive, as if the Station was tumbling to earth.
“Capcom, we’ve got a problem!” he shouted into his radio. The control center down at Johnson would already be seeing the crisis in the data streaming in.
Sounds returned as some of the systems went to battery-backups. The caution and warning panels on the workstation near his hips blinked back on, even as a cacophony of alarms sounded. The computer display was telling him what he had already deduced from the fact that the temperature was rapidly dropping and his juice bag was in the process of inflating.
There had to be a hole—a big one—sucking the air into space.
“We’ve been breached!” He pulled himself closer to the caution and warning panel, “…a hole in the structure on mating adaptor-two!”
He looked out the cupola again, ignoring the shifting images out the cupola windows to follow the line of modules all the way out to the end where he could just make out the bottom half of the mating adaptor. It was still there so at least it hadn’t somehow been blown off.
“’Copy that…we’re…’”
The rest of the flight controller's words were lost in a crackling hiss that told P-Jay that comm had failed or was at least in the process of failing.
“Pavel! Mark!” They had been asleep in the Lab. “Put on PBAs! Rick and Hito… somebody talk to me!” The other pair had been working in the Japanese lab and would be seeing what he was seeing, or even be looking at the breach itself. That left Samsov. “Vladimir, where are you?”
There was no answer from any of them. Onboard communications were wireless and would be working almost no matter what. He should be able to hear them.
“Everybody! Status! Now!”
It was getting harder to breath and the cold had begun to bite at his exposed skin. The air being vacuumed into space was being replaced by nothingness faster then environment control systems could replace it.
He pulled out the PBA stored beneath the workstation; a mask and air tank about the size of a propane camp stove, and put it on. The sense of life it gave him helped him refocus and he turned again to the workstation where he touched a panel and a line-drawing of the string of canisters appeared. It was showing cut electrical cables and thermal lines, and two dead data transfer boxes, one on the node and the other near the hole in the mating adaptor--it seemed likely that the top of the Node had been taken off--and more damage, behind and above him where the power lines from the solar arrays came together above Unity and the Z-1 segment there—the box that held the sedan-sized gyroscopes that kept the Station’s attitude stable, the reason they were tumbling. Either the computers had been overwhelmed by the sudden loss of stability or the CMGs themselves had been damaged.
“Active thermal control systems are yellow; power, too; atmosphere is virtually gone, and we’re tumbling head-over-tail,” he called out to anybody who might be capable of listening.
A throbbing had begun in his head a moment ago and now his ears felt as if they had filled up and he was under water. The air around him seemed to have a pinkish tinge to it--or was it in his eyes and they were bleeding? The vacuum was beginning to kill him.
“Secure Node 2!” he called, twisted around and pushed himself up into Unity. His juice bag had been wedged beneath the line of his PBA and his movement now broke it loose. On its own volition it was headed in the same direction he was, leading him through Unity and into a right turn to Destiny. The Lab was cylindrical on the outside, while inside was a square hallway crammed on all sides with equipment racks and hardware, leaving no sense of a top or bottom. The juice bag suddenly burst and tiny blue orbs began ricocheting around him, moving in the general direction of the hole he hadn’t seen, yet knew had to be ahead of him at the end of the row of modules. The place was ice cold
He could see Pavel and Mark suspended in their sleeping bags at the far end near the Node. The bags were shredded, scratched to bits as if an angry grizzly had been set loose inside the place. They weren’t wearing their air masks. He lunged toward them, reaching Pavel Borlov first. The brown-haired Russian’s face was unrecognizable amidst the ripped flesh. P-Jay twisted to get a look at Mark Anderson and saw the same result. The blast from the end of the row of canisters had shot countless, tiny debris fragments through its length.
Something flashed deeper into the node and he saw it; a craggy rectangle of blackness in the mating adaptor some forty feet away. It had momentarily flickered white-gold with sunlight from the tumbling. If Rick and Hito hadn’t sealed themselves in the Hab module they were dead by now. He turned back the way he had come. He needed to seal himself off and hope for some remnants of an atmosphere in Unity. If there wasn’t, he needed to get into Zvezda.
“’I-S-S, this is Capcom!... We have multiple warnings...’”
“Something hit us!”
It couldn’t be the result of an explosion he thought as he moved hand-over-hand through the tunnel. There was nothing inside the mating adaptor that could have exploded, and outside was only the microwave-sized data module protected by a harmless box. That only left a debris strike. Mass plus velocity, kills. A metal bolt the size of a marble carried the same kinetic energy as a one-ton safe dropped from a hundred feet. A piece the size of a dime could kill a satellite as big as a house. If whatever had hit them had been much bigger than that, the Station would have shattered into a cloud of countless tiny missiles eviscerating everything.
“’P-Jay, it… systems… more…’”
He answered the garbled radio static, “There’s a hole in PMA-2… fifty centimeters or more. We’ve lost environmental control systems, most power, comm, too! Pavel and Mark are dead in the Lab. Rick and Hito are not answering from the Hab and I don’t know where Vlad was… is!”
He reached Unity and pulled the hatch closed. It was unbelievably cold.
“’Copy that. Are you secure?’”
“Not yet!” he shot back angrily--it was that or let the abject fear overwhelm him. Then he pulled off his PBA.
“’Our data stream… intermittent… power… escape module?’”
“Not possible!” The scene through the cupola windows was incredible—space, sun, the horizon of the earth, repeating itself every few seconds. If he tried to use the escape capsule, the Station would swat him like a fly.
“’P-Jay... ammonia leaking… the atmosphere!”
He already knew. One of the alarms had sounded an instant before their words, telling him that his air was now poisonous—had he sealed himself in with it or was it where he had just been? Ammonia detection, the primary job of the demolished data module—the function was now being performed elsewhere. He wondered where… he should know this… he shouldn’t be wasting his time considering it, though… not really... there were other things to do... put on his PBA...
“’Talk to me, P-Jay!’”
He did, but what he told them wasn’t particularly useful.
“…Jennie…”




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